We were so loaded up that we stopped by the other yacht in the anchorage and tried to trade them fish/lobster/crab for rum/whiskey. But they didn’t seem to want to barter. So we ate like kings. Then we ate some more, then we slept like babies.
The next morning we picked up anchor and sailed to Nargana – averaging a bit over 7 knots. We were there by 1PM, and saw Andy on Fisher’s Hornpipe. We dropped anchor right next to him, and shortly we were having an anchor-beer together. Then we went shopping. First stop – vegetables. Second stop – liquor/beer. We literally bought the island out of rum, and had to give some to Andy who was also short on that magical substance.
Then we went back to the mothership, where another friend had arranged a water-dropoff for us. That consists of a dugout canoe with a bunch of 55 gallon drums of water pulling up alongside your yacht. How you get that water from the canoe to your watertanks is completely your problem – we borrowed a jury-rigged bilge pump. It took a couple of hours but we got’er done.
Next up was a belated birthday-party celebration for Andy. I offered to cook (we were still brimming with seafood), brought too much rum, and we kicked it all off. The party was successful enough that neither Fisher’s Hornpipe nor NOMAD left Nargana the following day.
At this point Luke and I were back into trying to find a dive-spot and put fish in the fridge. It was about this time that the ARC Rally was passing through as well – so we high-tailed it to the Swimming Pool (a beautiful, shallow, and clear-water anchorage). When we arrived we saw Gilana, Reach, and Infinity – all friends. The ARC Rally was interested in some Panama Cruising Guides. But we were interested in shooting fish. So we did that first, then we cleaned fish while selling Panama Cruising Guides.
Diving in The Swimming Pool
Prior to this trip, neither of us had dove this particular spot. But we took a look at the charts and oriented ourselves – then we headed to the nearest channel. We anchored the dinghy inside the channel, and kicked out of it – against a very strong current. The current was strong enough that Luke decided to stay in, and I only barely managed to get outside – where there was minor relief from said current.
Once away from the current, the diving was awesome.
I spent some time kicking around, and eventually saw a decent snapper holed up in about 55 feet of water. A breathe-up, a dive, and I managed to put a spear into the snapper through a tiny hole in the coral. The snapper freaked – and I couldn’t leave him in the hole – so I fought with him and managed to get him out and pull him to the surface. The dive was over in less than two minutes; it felt like a lifetime.
On the way back, with the snapper hanging on my shooting line – I saw an African Pompano. I was single-banded (only one band on the gun) in case I saw a lobster/crab/fish in a hole. The African Pompano headed towards me, giving me just enough time to load the second band on the speargun and turn on the GoPro. When he finally closed the gap, I saw no less than ten – but I picked the largest out and managed to put a spear through him. It was a marginal holding spot and he also completely freaked out. I pulled and pulled, trying to bring him to me as quickly as possible – to keep from loosing one of the best tasting fish in the ocean.
Long story short – I captured both the African Pompano and the snapper and we had tons of fish onboard. In fact, we gave quite a bit away, cooked another large amount, and then gave away some more the following day. The African Pompano was a hit. The snapper was good.
Somehow that night we switched the VHF to 16 (from 72) and turned down the volume. So when Mike (Gilana) called us for a morning dive we missed it. Mark (Reach) was onboard talking diving when Mike finally decided to dinghy by and invite us for a morning dive. We were deep into a pancake breakfast, but we rallied and thirty minutes later we were geared up and ready. Mike led us to some caves with amazing swim-throughs. We recorded some on both the big camera and the GoPro – amazing stuff. On the way, we shot a couple lobster and passed on innumerable Schoolmaster Snapper. One of the caves had a swim-through that was worth capturing on video, so we did. Obviously – freediving through caves is dangerous, so please don’t do it.
Eventually we retired and went back to the mothership. We burned trash, cleaned dishes, drank a beer – and prepared for our evening dive. Our evening dive was supposed to be with a friend but we got wires crossed and went out alone. Luckily so. We couldn’t find the exact cut in the reef to get outside – so we anchored inside and swam out. Again – crazy current. But we made it. And shortly after I made it – I was greeted with a massive Cubera Snapper. No less than 50 pounds. In an instant we recognized each other – he realized he was no longer top of the food chain and beat a hasty retreat. I followed, but gave up chase fairly quickly – I was outmatched in the underwater-racing department.
The swim back to the dinghy was brutal. Something out of a Special Forces qualification. I made it, winded, exhausted, and didn’t find Luke. So I went back out – but took a different angle. This angle turned out a worthwhile one.
After fifteen or twenty minutes of kicking around and checking holes – I saw a very, very large Black Grouper. He recognized me at roughly the same time and begin swimming away from me immediately. I followed him through the reef, into the deeper water for a while – then I tried something I haven’t tried before – I tried to herd him back to where I wanted him (the reef). It worked. By kicking hard and heading him off – I could turn him to where I wanted him to go. But it was futile. He lost me quickly once he was back on the reef. Sneaky like a ninja, despite his massive girth.
I retired to the dinghy with nothing to show, but we had so much seafood onboard that it wasn’t a problem. That dive was strictly trophy-hunting. And we found some trophies.
Back To Elephante
The next day we sailed out of The Swimming Pool early. We sailed West, heading to what promised to be a truly epic party – the San Blas Australia Day Party. My buddy Rob was organizing. Other friends would be attending.
On the way we pulled in our Genoa and hovered in East Lemmons – where we dropped off water and boat-engine-parts to One World. We’re hoping they’ll make it to the party. The anchorage at Elephante was slammed. Nothing less than 40 yachts, and it was expected to be 60 – more will undoubtedly turn up today.
Rob had all of his flags up, we originally dropped our anchor right next to him. But it was deep, and I like anchoring shallow. So we re-anchored, visited Rob, visited the island, etc. Then it was time to review footage. So in preparation for the Australia Day Party, we reviewed video footage, hoping that we could put together something entertaining for y’all. Fingers crossed.